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The Portland Timbers managed a draw in a game they dominated, giving up a goal on a penalty kick awarded for a questionable handball. They channeled their frustration toward scoring the equalizer, and Bright Dike finally broke through in the 80th minute.
Five keys to the game
Few changes to the lineup: Will Conwell had speculated on Friday that Gavin Wilkinson might rest some of the starters -- key among them Jack Jewsbury, whose next yellow card will bring him a suspension -- in preparation for next week's match against Seattle. Instead, the only lineup change GW made was using Bright Dike instead of Danny Mwanga in the striker role. Thankfully, Jewsbury escaped without a caution.
PKs continue to pester: David Horst needs to keep his arms down when he's charging to block a cross in the box, but that was still a penalty kick that didn't need to be awarded. Bright Dike getting undercut at the other end of the pitch, as well as Najar handling the ball while sprawled on the ground, however, did need to be called. That's five PKs awarded against the Timbers, to 0 awarded in their favor.
Doing the hard stuff, missing the easy stuff: Bright Dike pounded a left footer from a tight angle into the top of the net without even looking, for his fourth goal in nine appearances. That was after he twice found himself behind his defenders, but he failed to hit the target on either chance. Dike wasn't the only one missing the target, though -- the Timbers logged 15 shots but only four on target, including one by Songo'o from point blank range.
Switching up the formation: as Ryan pointed out in his match recap, the Timbers staff saw DC United trying to exploit what they saw as a weak defensive right wing for the Portland Timbers. On offense, too, DC sought to cut off Sal Zizzo's runs down the sidelines by double-teaming him almost immediately upon him receiving the ball. Switching the more physical Franck Songo'o into the center of the pitch, in favor of Darlington Nagbe, drew additional attention toward the middle and opened things up for Sal, putting Portland in control for most of the rest of the match.
Defense continuing to clamp down: Though it doesn't feel like much of a success, after a loss and a draw, the Timbers prevented their opposition from getting a goal from the run of play. Against DC they allowed only a single shot on target from the run of play, requiring just a single easy save from Joe Bendik.
However, it should be noted that both DC and RSL played pretty terrible matches, finishing poorly and putting their whole team behind the ball once they got the lead. Obviously the shots on goal allowed stat doesn't tell the whole story. Furthermore, the Timbers -- Jack Jewsbury in particular -- continued to concede fouls near the their penalty area. Weak calls though they may have been, they allow the opportunity for a dive when they let their opponents beat them.
Moment of the match
Bill Hamid took some time in getting himself set for a boot up the pitch in the 70th minute, and Franck Songo'o took exception. So he just stole the ball out of the air when Hamid dropped it for his kick. Songo'o received a yellow for his insolence, but it was a moment of defiance that characterized the Timbers' frustration with the proceedings. Bright Dike's equalizer followed moments later.
GW had an interesting interpretation of the play, which I quite enjoyed (thanks to Brian Gjurgevich for the presser video).
Injuries and Suspensions
Hanyer Mosquera suffered a strained hamstring in the 25th minute and was replaced capably by Futty Danso. It wasn't immediately clear whether Mosco will have to miss next weekend's derby, but if Diego Chara's similar injury is any guide, Mosco could be out for a couple of weeks. Will Conwell will certainly provide updates on his prognosis in his training reports this week.
Speaking of Chara, GW mentioned during his presser that Chara was held out of Saturday's game merely as a precaution. It is quite possible that both he and Donovan Ricketts could start next Sunday.
And as mentioned above, the Timbers will have no suspensions for Seattle away next Sunday.
Around the League
- Vancouver Whitecaps 0:0 Seattle Sounders: The Vancouver Whitecaps eliminated themselves from the Cascadia Cup race and did the Timbers a favor by giving Seattle just a single point with one match remaining. The Timbers would win the Cup with a victory or a draw next Sunday, but they wouldn't necessarily lose it with a loss -- they could still bring it home with a win against Vancouver.
- San Jose Earthquakes 3:3 FC Dallas: The Earthquakes managed another stoppage time equalizer, this time a Steven Lenhart goal in the 95th minute against FC Dallas. Dallas keeps pace with Vancouver, still two points behind them in the race for that final playoff spot.
- New York Red Bulls 4:1 Toronto FC: Kenny Cooper scored two open net chances, both assisted by Thierry Henry, leading to my favorite tweet of yesterday, from @bobkellett: "The Timbers probably had, what, six or seven guys last year who would have set Cooper up like Henry did. Damn you, force field."